כמו הלך במדבר

November 11, 2018

Since coming down from Shen Ramon, I had been walking on the flat surface under an overcast sky. I thought how convenient to have shades in the desert right in the middle of the day, which later proved to have lasted for the whole latter part of the trek – maybe a bit too much. After ascending Pisgat Kir HaMachtesh – a fun rock-climbing-like experience, as I guess the slippery rock surface used to bear a waterfall – it was merely 1pm. But the sky had already grown oppressively dark, and the wind blew as it wished without the sun to reign it in. It was under such conditions that a magical view assembled before my eyes, fusing my favorite motif with some surprising elements.

I had myself zipped up and leaned on a rock, feeling all cozy while admiring the transmission towers lining up the blue “electricity trail” that I had been dying to go – the last part of the day’s plan. That’s one of my favorite desert motifs. No, the towers themselves will not do. It has to be transmission towers traversing a vast desolation – the wasted, wild ones, not the domesticated, Christian ones^\hatip{Gibbon}. Or large antennas, or radio telescopes, set against utter solitude and bleakness. What exactly do I like about it, sometimes I wonder. Certainly it is too much BoC weed but that’s not a satisfactory answer. There are only fragments of reasons I seem to find, something along the line of long neglected last outposts of a once ambitious civilization, a foreign body that implanted itself in the nature that gradually becomes one with the Mother Earth, approaching perfection like grains of sand turning into pearls by the nourishment of mollusk love…? OK, maybe not the pearl part.

Unlike them, we don’t have the iconic Arizonian cacti to let bobcats perch on in our deserts. But these transmission towers look like Saguaro cacti enough, the only difference being that their arms unfortunately grow downwards. So instead of the robust youths of the desert, the transmission towers in the Machtesh look lanky and droopy. See, those are the cacti we have, and I love them the way they are.

As I was admiring the Ramon cacti on the top of the modest peak while leaning on the rock, muted thunders were heard. My gaze was directed toward the west. And there, the dark gray eagle spread its wings beyond the Shen Ramon peak. Or maybe an 1000 year old sea turtle would be more precise, as now I reviewed my photos and decided to abandon the common allusion. Closer to here, the head and the left fore flipper formed a solar prominence through which sharp darts of silver sunlight was hurled onto the plain, creating a bright spot in the brooding darkness. Further beyond, were the cloud pillars! read more …

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Etude Habima

May 20, 2017

הבריכה הרבועית יושבת בכיכר הבימה גילה את עצמה בשקט לאורחים לא חשדנים. הרגולריות הגאומטרית הושלמת על ידי, לצד מהמסגרת המלאכותית הבלתי נראה, הכבידה הפעילה באופן יחיד במים, כך שהכל נח במישור אופקי גרידא. יש לחומר ההומוגני הזה עוצמה מקסימה כלשהו לא רק שהעיניים שלי קבועים בו בעוד שרגליים שלי ממשיכים להתקדם, אלא גם שהילד הרעשני הקופץ מעלה-מטה בא להפסקה לחלוטין פתאום כשנוחת בדיוק בקצת הבריכה. נדמה שהזמן והמרחב קפואים יחד איתו, והעולם מורכב רק מילד הקסום ומהורהר על המים הרבי-חן. למרות התמונה הסטטית, אני חש מתח פנימי עצור – יש משהו שרוצה לבצבץ – אולי דמיוני אולי בתוכי. נניח שזה מקיים במציאות, אז איך לשבור את שווי המשקל הלא-יציבה? יש רק לתת דחיפה עדינה בגבו…

The even-sided oblong pool embedded on the Habima square, the latter of which unobstructed by the former’s existence, quietly reveals itself to the unsuspecting passers-by. The geometric regularity is completed by, besides the artificial framework hidden on the ground, the gravity uniformly applied on this homogeneous substance of water, so that the entire surface lies purely on the two-dimensional horizontal plane. What enchanting power emanates from it, that not only its charming image remains on my mind from thereon, but also that annoying boy running around all over the place a minute ago, comes to a complete halt the moment he reaches the edge of the silent pool. It seems he is freezing the time and space around him too; my world shrinks to a static image of the contemplative boy looking into the shallow but infinite water. Yet, a kind of restrained internal tension stirs and swells – perhaps imagined. Suppose it does exist, then how can I break it free from the unstable equilibrium? How can I release the restless soul? I know. It takes only a gentle push on his back, which I could hardly forbear.

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Portrait of a Lady with Glasses

March 11, 2017

It is fifteen minutes before the concert starts. The crowd density around the stand that sells the program brochure is inversely proportional to the time left. There never was and never will be a queue. A young lady is in the center of this half disk. She wears very, very thick glasses.

The pair of thick glasses confesses her usual way of life immersed in the library as a musicology student. She is actually one of the contributors to the introductory texts on the program brochures. One day the philharmonic orchestra coordinator said that a person was needed to fill the post of that stand and pleaded for her help. And here she is, behind the counter.

Hundreds upon hundreds of arms stretch and point towards her; a formidable forest of lances slowly advancing. The various amounts of coins, bills in those hands are like the sharp pointed lance-tips, all too ready to charge into the lady before anyone else. It’s hard to determine at this point how much longer can the lady rightly charge everybody 20 shekels before she is unjustly charged into. Through the thick lenses, the student’s eyes struggle to identify the most imminent threat and convey it to the overburdened computation faculty for the near impossible task of figuring out how much change to return and how many brochures to hand out using which hand and giving to which direction before the next imminent threat is too late to be dealt with.

There ARE people that are not so aggressive. Me, and an old man. Aware that I came later than him, I am determined to get the brochure not before him. He held out his hand steadily until five minutes passed, during which the elbowing masses came and went and were replaced by new such masses. The old man understandably complained. The distressed lady anxiously apologized that she overlooked him and promised he would be the next to be served. While she was saying so, another hand came to occupy her whole limited vision and had to be dealt with; then another, and another. She certainly wants the old man to get his brochure, but, where is his hand? Or maybe, she thought, have I already given him? She is barely defending herself and can pursue this thought no further.

The inverse proportion relation cannot hold out forever though. At some point infinitesimally close to the starting time of the concert, people decide they’d rather forgo the brochure. Suddenly, the boiling heat vanished! She is all alone in the hall. The muffled sound of symphony playing is heard as if from another planet. She adjusted her heavy glasses that slid down her sweaty nose a bit, looked around, wondering if all the stress had been a nightmare. A gust of chilly evening wind was sent through the open door, stirring the bills inside the tin box. Oh, these are the money collected for the program brochures. These de-poled lance tips are the inerrable evidence of a real occurrence.

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New Year’s Resolution 2334*

January 3, 2017

All the debates are exhausted. I’ve made up my mind long ago. Why do people still throw the same ancient arguments in speeches and opinion pieces? It tires me. Are they not? … So I thought.

Yet sometimes, occasionally, just “poco poco poco“, I would venture beyond skimming the headlines and into the realm of actually reading it. To see if the world has changed since last time I engaged with it? To be, um, informed (not without an eye roll)? Or mere yak shaving?

This time it was that old old UN’s obsession with Israel, that old old settlement obstacle, and oh a new new number 2334. I despise important people’s speeches and I do not appreciate the significance of their subtle wording. That being said, I started this excursion  by reading the state secretary’s full text from yesterday’s newsletter. Well, to my delight it proved a waste of time because I agreed with 99% of what he said. Il n’y a de nouveau que ce qui est oublié.

I held on to my view that it’s logical to claim that settlement expansion on the land which is subject to negotiation is harmful to the negotiation, thus an obstacle to peace, though I do not claim it is the only one or even the major one. And that is just a statement derived from logic. What really agonizes me is how the check posts can deprive the other side of human dignity and potentially brutalize the soldiers – more of the latter.

I am not unaware of their incitement problem. Following that line of thought, I may mention the well-known double standard that always subject Israel to harsh criticism and does not hold them accountable for horrifying deeds they did. I was once very indignant about it, too. It harms the peace process, true. But now I’m part of it. I can now somewhat relate to why some friends of Israel would do that to Israel. Because it is Israel with whom I fall in love with (sadly on my own), not the other side. As the internalization process goes, I naturally see myself whole-heartedly desire for her all the good, peace being that most precious jewel for her eternal grace. So in my eyes all I see is her, every motion she does, every word she utters, every glance she casts, every expression she shows, so much so that I don’t have any attention to spare for what the other side is doing. When she takes the course I deem leads her to danger, I cry; when they do whatever, I simply don’t care. That’s my perverted double standard.

As I just woke up from my foolish serenade, let me also put my double standard in a more comprehensible way. It’s reasonable to hold oneself to the standard of doing what one thinks is right to do, regardless of how badly the other party might behave. Since Israel is mentally internalized by me, I naturally hold her to a higher standard, because she is supposed to be that positive, progressive force.

The main objective of this post is not to document my long held belief regarding the two-state solution, though it’s worth documenting for my future reference. The point is, as my blog name indicates, a surprising revelation of how my belief is not essentially different from the school of greater Israel, of annexation, or from the school of status-quo that is vehemently attacked by both two-state and annexation advocates, despite the unseemly quarrels between these groups. The new perspective was gained following clicking into another headline in today’s newsletter. It is written by a settler. read more …

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The Kafka Museum Visit

November 16, 2016

As I was reading about the route Kafka used to take everyday to school accompanied by the family chef, suddenly the strains of HaTikvah was heard. It may not be much of a surprise since Kafka was known to have wanted to make aliya, the strange thing is that barely passing 8 bars, the music deviated from what I know so well. It then became apparent that this is not the Israeli national anthem, or a remix of it.

Recalling that the music of HaTikvah was adapted from some pretty pedestrian folk tune, I went to the Wikipedia page in hope of finding some confirmation that the presently playing piece was also a derivative of the same source. There, the name Smetana struck me familiar. Wasn’t that splendid hall where I listened to that underwhelming concert inside the municipal house called Smetana Hall? – It’s probably not the Prague Symphony Orchestra FOK’s fault, but my insisting in going to the concert after a whole day’s hike to blame. Now as the second movement of Smetana’s symphonic poem set, Vltava, greets me again, my hypothesis is validated. For some time, I enjoyed the discovery of the hidden links between these initially unrelated dots scattered all over my trip. But it seems to be a well known fact domestically.

Now as I think of it, isn’t it most suitable to choose this piece of music for that short film of Kafka’s Prague? On one hand, the HaTikvah-like melody alludes to his Zion heart, on the other, a Czech rendition reflects his cultural identity. By the way, this is not the only occasion where the museum designers show genius choice of music. Firstly I was met with some non-trivial ambient music in the introductory part. And close to the end in the literary analysis section, some spooky metal sounds are heard accompanying Kafka’s hand injury drawings made for his insurance company, creating a creepy absurd space. I would say the museum is quite experimental sonically and visually.

They also offered scholarly and deep interpretations for Kafka’s work, which were difficult to chew. To be honest, when I read Metamorphosis, I hardly saw anything beyond the storyline. But I’ll have plenty of chances to read between the lines now that I bought a set of three books compiling Kafka’s short stories from the museum shop – almost as impressive as the Autechre EP box that I got at the live show!

On a somewhat remotely related note, the nude with arms raised (and armpit hair exposed) by Pablo Picasso actually reminded me of George Samsa’s sister at the end of Metamorphosis, stretching herself to receive the infinite generosity from the sunshine as much as she could; her parents suddenly realize that here is a full fledged young woman ready for the future. This is not to say that I finally start to whole-heartedly appreciate that drawing. Although admittedly, Catherine’s explanation helped a lot towards that end. She says naivism tries to unlearn the academic training and focuses on the essence of what one wants to convey through childish paint strokes. In this particular drawing, I indeed starts to see the innocence, youthfulness and all the signs indicating the fresh positive, instead of singling out the grotesque squiggles supposedly representing her hair and hands. We also agreed that his intentional neglect of making her face pretty and leaving the natural underarm as is were an explicit challenge to typical modern viewers such as us, who are knowingly but irresistibly conditioned to popular media dictation of what is considered to be feminine beauty.

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